CHICAGO - They have a guy in Patrick Kane growing one of the best mullets the NHL has seen in decades. They have a forward in Kris Versteeg who, before reinventing himself as a key member on one of the best checking lines in the playoffs, was just as known for singing Fergie songs on demand.
They bond on the road by playing Mario Kart video game tournaments at the hotel, perhaps the secret to their success away from the United Center.
So yeah, when San Jose Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray used the word mature to describe the Chicago Blackhawks, it did seem a little bit surprising. This group of Blackhawks has been described a lot of ways — talented, fast, entertaining, confident ...
"The one thing that maybe you might give them more credit for than you maybe did before, they're playing very mature for being a young team," Murray said. "Just patience in games and staying within their game plan."
They grow up so fast, don't they?
But Murray is absolutely correct. On the ice, the Blackhawks have found a level of maturity that only comes with playoff experience. The team threatening to sweep the talented Sharks on Sunday (3 p.m. ET, NBC) isn't the same one that started the playoffs and struggled to get by the Nashville Predators. That was a group emerging from a post-Olympic slump that threatened to crack the very confidence that makes these young Blackhawks so successful.
Well, now we know.
The Blackhawks have eliminated the inconsistencies that plagued them early on in the playoffs. Jonathan Toews admitted that they relied on their superior talent, at times, to win in the regular season.
That's not how it works in the playoffs. The Blackhawks have figured it out.
As this postseason has progressed, each Blackhawks player has carved out his roles to perfection. Every time one of them jumps over the boards, he knows exactly what is expected of them. It means Dustin Byfuglien has emerged as one of the best postseason players at creating traffic in front of the net. And scoring when he has the chance.
Those lapses of disinterest and ineffective play are gone, and in turn the Blackhawks have become the most dominant team left in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"We've all seemed to identify our own roles quite a bit more. We've really seen what each guy can do to help the team work and be successful," Toews said. "We all understand those little things we can do as individuals. We've all kind of embraced that and really gotten better and better at it."
And what should scare San Jose now and Philadelphia or Montreal later, is this: The improvement can continue.
At some point, Marian Hossa will score goals. Brian Campbell, whose return from injury started Chicago's playoff success, is playing too well to be stuck on three assists. And goalie Antti Niemi seems to improve as the stakes increase.
"Talking in the room, we all feel that we can still be better and still bring our game to another level," Keith said. "I think all good teams have that mentality. That's what we have."
Watch Live: Boston looks to finish the job and eliminate New York with a win in Game 5. Can the Rangers hold off the Bruins once again?
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May 22, 2010: Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk say the Sharks played extremely well until they ran into the Blackhawks and goalie Antti Niemi.
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Chicago Blackhawks (2) d. San Jose Sharks (1)